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Police break up UNC-CH protest after American flag lowered at pro-Palestine demonstration


By WRAL Staff

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    CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (WRAL) — An active scene at UNC-Chapel Hill continued Tuesday afternoon, hours after police began detaining pro-Palestinian protesters on campus.

University police said 30 people were taken into custody Tuesday morning because they refused to leave.

According to university police, protesters attempted to block UNC police vehicles by standing in front of them. After the encampment was cleared out, police said protesters pushed officers while attempting to enter the South Building.

Around noon, UNC Students for Justice in Palestine organized a walkout on the Wilson steps in protest of the students who were taken into custody. A crowd was marching up to the South Building, which houses the chancellor’s office.

On the main quad around 2 p.m., protesters tore down barricades and took down the American flag on a flag pole in the quad. A Palestinian flag was raised in its place. A group surrounded the pole as if they were guarding it. Music played loudly and some joined hands and danced while others clapped in unison.

Around 2:35 p.m., police officers entered the space to break up the group. The Palestinian flag was eventually lowered and the American flag raised. Protesters chanted, “disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest.”

UNC Interim Chancellor Lee H. Roberts was alongside officers as they made their way to the quad.

Protesters were kicked off the campus and made their way to the Orange County Detention Center to support those who were detained.

“Our action is not over until all of our folks are out of jail,” one protester said. “We are gonna go support our students who have been arrested.”

WRAL News was live at UNC-Chapel Hill, where police could be seen removing protesters who had set up an encampment at the university in protest of the Israel-Hamas war.

People could be seen with zip ties around their wrists being taken away by police. One person was seen being dragged by police.

Police said some of the protesters who were detained Tuesday morning are not UNC students and do not have any affiliation with the university. WRAL News has confirmed that at least six people were arrested on charges ranging from resisting an officer to trespassing and assault on a government employee.

Roberts released a statement outlining the university’s actions on Tuesday morning.

“We were disappointed that we had to take action this morning regarding protesters, including many who are not members of the Carolina community, who violated state law and University policies that provide for peaceful demonstration.

Into the weekend, our University maintained a healthy and constructive dialogue with students and others who came to our campus to make their voices heard. This is our consistent tradition and practice, as the principle of free speech is enshrined in the North Carolina Constitution, which states that “freedom of speech and of the press are two of the great bulwarks of liberty and therefore shall never be restrained.”

No one has the right to disrupt campus operations materially, nor to threaten or intimidate our students, nor to damage and destroy public property.

Previous protests this year have concluded peacefully and without arrests. Policies have been shared with the entire campus on multiple occasions and with protest organizers at events. At several points during this past weekend, we had constructive conversations with organizers that allowed for the group to continue their event and remain within our reasonable time, manner and place policies.

That changed Sunday evening when protesters backtracked on their commitment to comply with these policies. The leaders of this group ended our attempts at constructive dialogue.

We must consider the physical safety of all of our students, faculty and staff. In addition, we are alarmed at the rising accounts of antisemitic speech, and we categorically denounce this and any other incidents of prejudice.”

More law enforcement officers were seen walking onto the campus shortly after the first round of officers removed several people and broke up the encampment.

Protesters remain on campus and can be seen gathered in front of Memorial Hall as police surround the crowds of protesters.

Police threaten to arrest pro-Palestinian protesters

Campus police announced Monday that officers would arrest pro-Palestinian protesters who were camping within view of administration building on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

“You can’t really turn a blind eye to the massive encampment of students, faculty and community members,” the student organizing the protest said. She is a UNC graduate student, but she did not want to give her name.

UNC Students for Justice in Palestine posted a message on social media, calling for all hands on deck at Polk Place at 201 South Road. On Monday, WRAL News counted 34 tents.

“No more money for Israel’s slaughter!” protesters chanted Monday.

They’re demanding the university disclose any investments in Israel and divest of that funding.

Demands are painted on signs and written in chalk on sidewalks surrounding the tent village.

“Seeing such a big cause on campus definitely makes you think a lot more about it,” said UNC sophomore Heidi Kauffman.

The group then moved from Polk Place to the Morehead Planetarium, where former UNC Chancellor Kevin Gusciewisz attended an event meant for graduating seniors called “Last Lecture.”

Jared Wasserman, a UNC student of Jewish faith, said while he understands why the protesters started the encampment, he believes the school should focus on other matters.

“It doesn’t seem like anything is going to happen right now,” he said.

The display also got UNC freshman Holiday King’s attention.

“I promote free speech,” King said. “I totally promote free speech, but the university just needs to do more.”

“I’m a Jewish student,” UNC junior Daniel Stompel said. “This personally makes me feel a little bit unsafe.”

Organizers plan for the encampment to stay in place until the university hears their demands or takes more drastic action to move them out.

Campus police have threatened to arrest anyone camping near the admin building, adding the tents are in violation.

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